SOUTH CHINA SEA — LCS Crew 103 Rough Riders and the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) completed at-sea workups Feb. 24 following last week’s crew swap, the first of three crew swaps during the ship’s maiden 16-month deployment to the Asia-Pacific.
Embarked with the surface warfare mission package for the entirety of the deployment, the Rough Riders are joined by the Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35, Detachment 2 All Stars and Surface Warfare (SUW) Mission Package, Detachment 1 Badgers.
Fort Worth is the first LCS to deploy under the "3-2-1" manning concept, which allows LCS to sustain a 16-month forward presence without fatiguing the crew during the extended deployment. It is named 3-2-1 because three rotational crews will support two LCS ships and maintain one deployed ship. Two additional crew swaps will occur during the remainder of Fort Worth's deployment, roughly every four months.
Prior to getting underway, Crew 103 conducted a one-week in port turnover with Crew 104. During the first five days of the current underway period, the crew conducted at-sea workups to maintain the proficiency achieved as part of their deployment certification in San Diego.
"This is our third on-hull period on Fort Worth,” said Senior Chief Craig Cole, Crew 103 command senior chief. “As part of the LCS “3-2-1” manning concept, we trained ashore in simulators and then completed our deployment certification on board USS Freedom in late 2014. The crew arrived in Singapore via a plane from San Diego and then sailed Fort Worth out of Singapore already fully qualified.”
According to Lt. Lemont King, Crew 103 chief engineer, most of Fort Worth’s material and equipment checks were completed during the in port phase of the crew swap, but some tests must be done at sea such as a full power trial and environmental protection systems test.
Additionally, HSM 35, Detachment 2 performed aviation flight operations, which includes deck landing qualifications and MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aircraft system flights.
“After the crew swap, the aviation detachment conducted flight operations with the MH-60R and the MQ-8B,” said Lt. Cmdr. Edward Hill, HSM 35, Detachment 2, officer in charge. “The first few days we flew each aircraft individually and we will eventually conduct combined operations. The goal is to ensure that the ship and the air team remain proficient to conduct flight operations safely to meet any operational tasking.”
Workups with the SUW mission package include simulated Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) boardings and a weapons familiarization fire of the 30mm gun weapons system aboard Fort Worth.
“A few new members joined the Badgers right before deployment so the training conducted has been beneficial in integrating them quickly in to our detachment,” said Lt. j. g. Hannah Allaire, SUW Mission Package, Detachment 1 officer in charge.
Fort Worth is currently headed north for Foal Eagle in March. Held annually with the Republic of Korea navy, Foal Eagle is also the first exercise in Northeast Asia that incorporates LCS participation.
“This crew is dedicated to represent the Navy and the Nation with pride and professionalism during the upcoming exercise in Northeast Asia,” said Cole. “We are looking forward to showing how our extensive hybrid training provides us with the unique capability to support several missions.”
Fort Worth is the second LCS to deploy as part of an initiative for up to four rotational deployments of these ships simultaneously to U.S. 7th Fleet in the coming years. Fast, agile and mission-focused, littoral combat ships are designed to operate in near shore environments and employ modular mission packages that can be configured for surface warfare, mine countermeasures or anti-submarine warfare. Fort Worth will employ the surface warfare mission package for her entire deployment, augmenting her 57mm gun and rolling airframe missile launcher with two 30mm guns, two 11-meter rigid-hull inflatable boats, two six-member maritime security boarding teams, a MH-60R Seahawk helicopter and a MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aircraft system.
The U.S. 7th Fleet conducts forward-deployed naval operations in support of U.S. national interests in the Indo-Asia-Pacific area of operations. As the U.S. Navy's largest numbered fleet, U.S. 7th Fleet interacts with 35 other maritime nations to build partnerships that foster maritime security, promote stability and prevent conflict.